What this new $100,000 electric sedan entry brings might spoil Tesla’s party.
Replacement for Displacement
The Air’s front power unit—combining its motor, transmission, and inverter—is one-third the size of the one in a Tesla Model S. It could feasibly fit inside a school backpack and weighs just 163 pounds, yet it generates 670 horsepower. The motor spins at 20,000 rpm. When combined with a nearly-as-compact rear-motor unit, the Air is capable of a 2.5-second zero-to-60 time and a sub-10-second quarter-mile sprint. And—shhh—there are whispers of an even quicker tri-motor model.
With its 490-mile real-world electric range (as experienced by us), the Air not only exceeds the Tesla Model S’s previously indomitable distance but should also put to rest any range anxiety about battery-powered vehicles. Lucid also claims its battery pack is more compact than that of the Tesla Model S. Rawlinson, who engineered the Model S before founding Lucid, says a smaller battery pack, with a still-impressive 350-mile range, should be available at a much lower price in 2022. There will also be a midlevel Air with about 400 miles of range. Of course, with Lucid being in launch mode, anything can happen between now and then in terms of specifications and pricing.
The Air’s “microlens” headlamps are arrayed in a lightbar that produces a very futuristic design. The same assembly also houses the lidar and cameras for the Air’s smart cruise-control systems, avoiding the “black box” look that mars the facias of so many cars today.
It Slides Through the Air
Lucid claims the Air has a 0.21 coefficient of drag to help with aerodynamic efficiency. By comparison, the Tesla Model S has a claimed 0.24, and the Tesla Model 3 a claimed 0.23. The Toyota Prius also has a 0.24. according to its maker. If Lucid’s claim bears out, it will be the slipperiest car on the road today. (It’s worth noting, though, that every automaker uses different means of measuring drag, making it tough to determine which vehicle is the sleekest.)
Wheels Keep Turnin’
Part of the Air’s low aero is due to its specially designed wheels. “Traditional sports-car wheels’ blades are great for cooling but lousy for aero,” Jenkins notes. The Air’s wheel inserts take care of aero while still channeling cooling air to the brakes under most driving circumstances. For track days, when you really need cooling, the inserts can be removed.
A curated theme of grays and browns might seem pedestrian for such a futuristic car, but the front occupants get darker hues for driving engagement, while those in back get lighter hues for relaxation, Jenkins says. Besides, rich folks who can afford $100,000 cars can afford to retrofit their interiors in custom pinks and purples if they so choose.
Although they’re well filled with information, the narrow touchscreens riding the upper dashboard are easy to remove in case new technology (such as OLED) becomes popular for automotive applications. They provide the immediate need-to-know info; if you want to drill down, you can consult the tablet screen in the center-console waterfall.
Junk in the Frunk
Lucid claims its front trunk is larger than those of the Model S, Jaguar I-Pace, Audi E-Tron, and Mercedes EQS combined. First of all, the EQS doesn’t have a frunk, but still, adding up the geometry of the other three frunks and eyeballing the Lucid’s yawning cavern behind the front bumper lends credence to the claim that it will swallow a ton of luggage. There’s a rear trunk that’s big, too; with the 60/40-split rear seats folded down, the double-decked cargo area can accommodate a 6-foot-5-inch surfboard.
Although Lucid will have “destination location” dealerships, its sales force will focus on virtual reality to help give customers a sense of the Lucid experience. This also helps avoid the awkwardness of not-socially-distant test drives. The Lucid Air is slated to start serial production in spring 2021.
The 2021 Lucid Air might not have the scent of (Elon) Musk wafting around it, but this latest $100,000-plus electric sedan is a technological tour de force that will give the Tesla Model S a run for its money. After a three-hour walkaround of a prototype Air at Lucid’s Beverly Hills dealership—socially distanced from CEO/CTO Peter Rawlinson and chief designer Derek Jenkins—here are some of the cool things we think the Air delivers.